Never Again Separate

By Cypher

Prologue

Free at last. On his own.

It was the 18th birthday of Matt Camden, and he breathed in the fresh air as he walked out of the home he'd been living in for the past four years.

Five years after his parents had died tragically in a car accident, Matt Camden was finally free from his church home. Finally free to do the only thing he'd been wanting to do since his parents had died.

Find his siblings.

He still remembered the day he had received the news of his parents' death. He was thirteen, summer vacation was approaching, and he was looking forward to teaching five-year-old Simon to play softball. Mary and Lucy were in their shared room talking over something or other. Simon was napping, and Ruthie was sleeping along with him. His parents had just run out for a second to drop off something to a church member, and they thought it was the perfect time to let Matt show just how responsible he could be, and let him baby-sit all four kids. Matt figured it'd be easy. They were only going to be gone a minute.

That minute turned into an eternity. They never came home. When Matt had answered the door an hour later and saw a police officer, Lieutenant Michaels, a friend of his dad, he knew something wasn't right. The look on the police officer's face was disturbing, and behind him the lights were still flashing on top of his car. Then came the infamous words that Matt would never forget.

"I'm sorry, Matt. Your mom and dad...there's been an accident."

He was numb from the shock of it, and completely missed what Michaels had said after that. Years later, Matt had found a newspaper with an article on the accident. Both his parents were announced dead on site, victims of a truck driver who had had too much to drink and not enough sleep. At the time, though, all Matt could think of was Why, God? Why did you let this happen to them? What did we do to deserve this?

His priorities changed as he realized the other kids had to be told. He refused to let Lieutenant Michaels do it. Instead, within thirty minutes, he had assembled the Camden kids, and explained the situation.

Ruthie had no clue what was going on, being an infant, but the atmosphere caused her to cry.

Simon cried silently, and something within his blue eyes went dead.

Mary hugged Lucy as both of them wept. Lucy was hysterical, but Mary was quiet, giving Matt the same questioning look Matt wanted to give God.

Michaels stayed with them for the next couple days, but without their father preaching at the church, the children couldn't stay in that house. The inevitable happened, and the five Camden kids were brought into foster care.

Ruthie was the first to go. Being an infant, she had a priority above the others. Matt heard that they had found another Christian family willing to adopt her as one of their own, a large family with a minister for a father. He took comfort in the fact that his baby sister would be raised the way he and his three other siblings had been for their short life; though he was upset she would grow up never knowing her true family, either parents or siblings.

After that, Matt took stock of the three others, trying to make sure they'd be fine through the transition to their new families, or family, if they were lucky.

Lucy, then eight, had withdrawn into a shell, becoming quiet and reclusive. She ate in silence, and shrugged at every attempt Matt made to start up a conversation. It was upsetting for Matt to see that the most talkative of the bunch was running silent. After a week, though, she was adopted by a nice family, and for the first time since the news of their father's death, she spoke a few words. Matt just wished they hadn't been good-bye.

Mary was worse off than Lucy. She had entered a depression of not just silence, but of self-abuse. She refused to eat, and by the second week, she was admitted into the hospital for IV fluids and malnutrition. Fortunately, the eleven year old had become quite popular due to her athletic ability, and one of her teammates convinced her parents to accept Mary into their home. It wasn't official until months later, but Matt noticed the change in Mary almost immediately. Though upset at God for killing his parents, he said a little prayer thanking him for finding Mary a home and saving her from herself.

And that left him and Simon. Simon's attitude and mannerisms hadn't changed, but Matt could see in the dead eyes that Simon was not the same boy he was before. He wasn't as caring as he was when their parents were alive, and though he smiled, Matt got the feeling that it wasn't a true smile. However, he tried to lift their spirits by saying they'd be adopted within a week. Then that week turned into a month, and then that month turned into a year. Simon and Matt were shipped around to different boarding houses, each one with possible families to adopt them, and each disappointing them.

Then word came that Matt had been adopted, by a family in Glen Oak. Actually, he was a church project for another reverend, one that was friends with his father. There was only enough for one, though. Matt pleaded and begged for them to take Simon, to not separate them, or if they could only take one, take Simon so he grew up with a sense of normalcy. The decision was final, though. Resigned, Matt sat Simon down and told him what had happened.

And in that instant, Matt could see that Simon Camden, his loving brother, was crushed. His spirit was dead. The look of hatred Simon gave him haunted him in his dreams even now. Simon wouldn't even hear how Matt had tried to get him adopted too. He had just run out and hidden himself. More than anything, Matt wanted to find Simon, to explain, and to apologize.

The problem was, he didn't know where Simon was. Matt didn't know where any of his siblings were or what had become of them, but for the last few years, he had prayed to God that he would find them. His parents, Annie and Eric, would want them to be a family again, even if it was just for a day. And he himself wanted them to be a family. He missed them, more than words would ever communicate. Unfortunately, there was one crucial thing standing in the way of his dream.

Money.

Matt knew he had to find a job, build a secure financial base, before he could even start to search. The adoption protocols and expenses needed to find his brother and sisters would be extensive, not to mention the airfare if he had to fly anywhere. And he still had to get some sort of college degree. But he was confident that God would provide. He had matured and accepted what had happened, no longer angry at God or anyone. So he was sure God would provide, somehow, in someway.

All he needed was a place to begin so he could start saving.

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Author's Prattle: I'd like to thank goblz, a fellow 7th Heaven fanfic author, for allowing me to use this plot line. Initially it was her idea, but after she told me, my mind just got busy setting up a plot map, events, and even an ironic ending. After much debate, she consented. So let's everyone thank her for inspiring this fic!

Disclaimer: 7th Heaven, its characters, and setting don't belong to me. I'm merely borrowing them in as a creative tool to explore my talents.